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Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Designer Interview: Adam Fitzgerald of Jackson Street Furniture

Becky

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Recently I have the pleasure of sitting down with (O.K., actually  emailing back and forth with; this is the era of the Golden Globe winning The Social Network) Adam Fitzgerald, architect and furniture designer extraordinaire. I hope you will find as much inspiration from his work and his advice as I have!

Please tell us a bit about how your company came to be – your creative background and how you began to build your
business.

I’ve been an architect for over 20 years, but I’ve designed and built furniture since I was in graduate school. Working
with furniture is satisfying for me because it’s such an intimate thing. We interact with furniture on a daily basis, and
almost constantly at that. Plus it’s easier to take chances with furniture. When you’re doing a building that costs
millions of dollars it can be tough to get the client to try something different. So furniture offers me the opportunity to
experiment, and try things that are “on the edge”. I was also motivated to design and build furniture when I first got
out of school because I couldn’t find good contemporary furniture that was affordable, so it’s always been a goal of
mine to sell a line that is creative, but also affordable to most people.

Please take us on a bit of a virtual tour of your studio. What’s the neighborhood like? What were some of your
priorities when finding a space where you need to be creative?

My current studio is fairly ordinary. It’s a “flex” space with an office and a large open area for the shop. The
neighborhood is a gritty area on the north side of Denver. I really like this kind of neighborhood. There’s a real
mix of businesses and artists in the area. I can find sources for all kinds of materials and ideas just by talking with
people in my building. There’s everything here from another contemporary furniture company to companies that mill
complex machine parts. So the “community” I could say, is very important in choosing a space. Before this location
I had a space here in Denver in a building with ten artists that offered a great a chance for feedback and inspiration.
Unfortunately the owner sold the building, and we were booted to the street!

When I step outside I get a great view of the Denver skyline with the mountains in the background which isn’t too
bad! I can even see the last building I did in the skyline—a 41 story condominium that I finished off last year, right
before I started Jackson Street Furniture.

Where do you start when designing something new? A sketch? A wood sample? A dream?
I get inspiration everywhere. I often get ideas from ordinary things I see that have nothing to do with furniture but
that have a geometry, or character that strikes me as beautiful. I’ve consciously tried to stay away from studying the
history of furniture, or specific styles. I try approach furniture design from the “outside”. In school, I had to study a lot
of architectural history and I think when designing you can actually use “style” as a crutch that keeps you from really
trying more innovative things. I sketch all my ideas. Many of them go nowhere, but I keep them all. I revisit them
every so often. I’ve found that often a sketch from years ago will inspire a new idea when I look at it with fresh eyes.

How do you stay inspired? Any advice for those who are suffering from a creative block?
I always keep a sketchbook close by. When inspiration hits, I sketch it out. Sometimes it will be months or even
years before I come back to it, but I also might go into the studio the next day and start building it. The building
process keeps me inspired. I often start with an idea I’ve sketched but by the time I’m done it’s morphed into
something entirely different. That keeps the creative juices flowing—I love being spontaneous with design.

If I’m “blocked’ creatively, I try to get away from what I’m working on and rejuvenate my mind by doing something
else. I think the subconscious takes over if you’re distracted and before long, new ideas work their way to the
surface.

Onto the furniture! There is something a dash Rat Pack about some of your pieces to me (I mean that as a
compliment – am I way off?), in particular the Zoom Table and BOG (O)Val Table. I also feel a sense of nostalgia
when I look at the Open Wide Table. You clearly balance a touch of retro inspiration with your contemporary designs.
How do you balance the old and the new?

I definitely think you’re right about some of my furniture having a mid century quality, and I’ve had others tell me that
as well. (I like the idea of Dean Martin pulling up next to the Zoom table with a scotch and a cigarette!) But it’s not
really something I consciously strive for. I’ve always been drawn to simple geometry and forms that are streamlined,
but also a bit quirky and unusual—not the more rigid, formal shapes of “classical” modernism. I love the designs you
find on fabrics from the 50’s and 60’s.

Do you have any words of wisdom for creatives who are ready to make the leap into a building a business?
First, if it’s something you love to do—definitely go for it. Life’s short, and you’ve got to take chances. Second, I think
it’s important to dive into the deep end, so to speak. Go “all in”, and immerse yourself in it. To me, that’s the only
way to do your best work, and give yourself and your ideas the best shot at being successful.

Adam, thanks so much for sitting down with us today and sharing your inspirations and advice! To see the Jackson Street Furniture line, click here.

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Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Designer Interview: Mia of Pop & Lolli

Becky

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Today I have the pleasure of sitting down with Modern Mom Mia, who is the creator of Pop and Lolli, a company that makes removable wall decals in large sizes and exuberant colors that parents and kids can have fun switching around, dressing up, and re-arranging into different compositions whenever they fancy. Well, I’ll let Mia and the images tell the story. For information on how to buy any of these designs, simply click on the image.

How did you get your current business of the ground?

I was working at the time as an Imagineer (Architect for Disney) when my husband and I found out that we were pregnant with our first child.  Returning to work after the birth of Anabelle was really challenging, as the demands of the job and the lifestyle which a new baby allowed was tough and difficult to balance. It felt like both required my full time attention, 24/7.  We do not have any family in America, and a nanny was caring for Anabelle during the day. The knowledge that someone else was caring for my baby, and I was missing out on all her important little developments and milestones saddened me!  But, living in LA is tough on one salary, even more so with the addition of a new family member during the worst of a bad economy. My husband and I decided to try and make it work and I resigned as an Imagineer to ensure that I can be full time with our daughter.

My first creative task at home was to decorate my daughter’s new room. And this is where it all started!  After lots of thought and research, I knew I wanted something funky, spunky, unique, BIG, colorful, and permanent in style, yet temporary enough to move it with us when/if we ever move again.  I loved the idea of wall decals, but couldn’t find anything that really emotionally connected with me.  Everything was too small, it covered too little walls – nothing offered a true work of art, a mural, a complete interactive experience … and so I decided to take matters in my own hands and just do it myself. We received raving reviews from our friends, so my husband and I decided to see whether we can develop it into a business… welcome to Pop & Lolli!  11 Months of extreme dedication, intense passion, pure joy, LOT’S of hard work and sacrifices, very little sleep and tons of research later, Pop & Lolli launched on 10/10/10. I can now truly say, I am at my Happy Place! :)

How has your childhood in South Africa influenced your work?
I was born and raised in South Africa and earned a degree in Architecture at the University of Pretoria. After I graduated and got married, I moved with my husband to Washington, DC (we have since moved to Los Angeles). I have always had an intense passion for true African Art and Culture.  The color and the vibrancy of the designs, and the unique and extreme variance in style and most often the fine attention to detail are all awe-inspiring.  South Africa is a gorgeous country and has TONS to offer – most people have a hard time believing we have ELEVEN official languages!  A true rainbow nation and a melting pot of many great things – it certainly is a recipe for fantastical creations! The textures, the landscapes, the sunsets, the smells, the food, the color, the languages … one can only listen, smell, observe, taste and feel to KNOW Africa is in your blood.  And if it’s in your blood it is a part of you, one cannot help but to always be mesmerized, reminisce and be affected by it. Always.  Often.  And I’m proud of it! :)

Please take us on a bit of a virtual tour of your studio. What’s the neighborhood like? What were some of your priorities when finding a space where you need to be creative?

We currently live in a small quaint little neighborhood sandwiched between Miracle Mile and Beverly Hills in Los Angeles.  It is a wonderfully small little tree-filled neighborhood, with lots of beautiful old 1920′s Los Angeles homes, yet close enough to be within walking distance to some of LA’s trendiest little hot spot cafes, restaurants and parks. My biggest priority when trying to create my office was SPACE! We seem never to have enough of it!  Since working full time on Pop & Lolli my office space has moved 3 times within the house…. I’m always complaining that I never have ENOUGH SPACE! Currently I have my own semi-private little area (chosen such to still be able to cast a watchful eye on Anabelle whilst busy working on Pop & Lolli with her being able to go about her own play time without interfering with Mommy too much) with a brightly painted hot pink wall, a stainless steel retro office desk and a gracious red egg chair awaiting you if you come and visit for a cup of tea! I design the decals on my guilty pleasure, a beautiful Mac.

How do you stay inspired? Please walk us through your design process.
BOOKS! BLOGS! South Africa!  We try to visit South Africa once yearly and I always come back filled to the brim and expanding out of my mind full of amazing inspiration… After a trip I usually have enough content in my mind to last me several collections! Usually the challenge to remaining inspired, is finding enough TIME to process the thoughts, organize my ideas and execute the design. Big inspiration tends to come when I’m least ready for it, and that’s when the iPhone camera comes in real handy!  I’ve luckily also been blessed with an amazing memory and tend to freeze beautiful moments in my mind to recall later for when I’m ready to draw.  I like to paint, sculpt, draw, write, which usually leads to informal designs.  I then usually like to excitedly share these genius ideas with my very non-designer brained husband, and in the few cases which I can see a faraway twinkle in his eye, I know to take it to the computer where I then like to formalize the art in Illustrator – my very best friend!

Please tell us a bit about your current line – Can you tell us a bit about how this decal can equal family fun?

Noah’s African Circus was the collection that started it all, and is the collection originally designed for my daughter – and it happens to be our most popular too!  I wanted to create characters with a lot of personality and filled with flavor, laughter, fun and very many detail.  I liked the idea of dressing them all up in fabulous fashions, like checks, tartans, glasses etc., and to have each collection be gender neutral.  Something a little bit unexpected and quite out of the ordinary. I purposely used bold and intense colors, and designed them such that all the collections can interact and match with each other to ensure no two rooms can ever be alike. I liked the idea of dressing the decals up for an occasion and decided to include fun and themed overlays like the Birthday, Halloween and Christmas Overlay.  This ensures family fun for everyone, which young and old can enjoy together to either use it by itself or dress up your current art or decals on your wall for extra laughter and fun. It also utilizes the full potential of the fabric decals as they are very removable and reusable. Use for a few months and store for the rest of the year to use again later!


Do you have any advice for anyone suffering from a creative block? Read Design BLOGS!  Browse Etsy! It’s crazy how much amazingly awesome content there is on the web! There are SO very many talented people sharing fabulous inspirational ideas that will spark your own enthusiasm. An overseas trip to explore other cultures has never hurt anyone either! :)

Do you have any words of wisdom for creatives who are ready to make the leap into a building a business?
With true passion and a heart for what you believe in, surround yourself with inspiring, caring, supportive friends and… jump!  Even if you fail, you will be caught by caring hands! I like to refer to Pop & Lolli as my community project.  They say it takes a village to raise a child, but it takes the city of Los Angeles to start Pop & Lolli.  I truly would never have been able to launch Pop & Lolli if it wasn’t for the incredible and amazingly wonderful and supportive community of the world’s most amazing group of talented friends who helped me and supported me unconditionally all the way always!

Please tell our readers more about Chic 2 Change!

Living in the US, a country filled with opportunity, I have always wanted to give back to South Africa. And with the birth of Pop & Lolli we realized this was the perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone and also start my much dreamed about charity!  I really like the TOMS Shoes philosophy of one for one, but in reality, decals are not the highest priority for non-privileged children! As such, we donate a fixed percentage of all Pop & Lolli profits to Chic 2 Change. After careful consideration we decided to partner with a wonderful charity in South Africa who has their finger on the pulse and know exactly what and where the current needs are. It was also important for me to ensure 100% of the donated dollars get applied towards enriching the needy children, and as such no admin fees or third party costs are charged. We just came back from our very first charity distribution – and it was amazing! I’m excited at the opportunity to help facilitate change.  We are hoping for a Pop & Lolli boom in 2011 and start contributing to local charities in the US too.

Thank you SO MUCH to Mia for taking the time to share her story and advice with us! For more information about Chic 2 Change, click here. For information on how to buy any of these designs, simply click on the images.

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Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Designer Interview with Marcell Faller of sonoro audio

Ali

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I have a transistor radio in my apartment. Yes, an AM only transistor radio. Beyond my computer speakers and my coveted transistor radio, I don’t have any quality sound device to play my my favorite tunes which more often than not tend to be of the German “oompah” sort (no joke). Coincidentally enough, the following interview is with Marcell Faller of sonoro audio, a German based audio designer who creates amazing sound systems out of wood casings the size of a toaster. I think I am convinced it is time to upgrade… Enjoy the Q&A!


First comes first, we want to know about your background! Where are from? What sort of passions did you have prior to starting sonoro audio?

I’m was born and raised in Neuss, Germany. sonoro audio was first started in my hometown but shortly after the introduction of cubo, our first product, we moved the company to the near-by vibrant city of Cologne. I’m a gadget guy and products with flare have always caught my eye and my wallet. I have an interest in all things global. I have traveled around the world for adventure, education and work. I especially love the USA and lived there off and on for over 10 years.

How did you get into the electronic/audio/design world? What sparked the need to begin sonoro and create such quality audio pieces that also have such a refined and thoughtful design element?

Prior to starting sonoro audio, I was the international product and purchasing manager for Medion, Germany. The company has been very successful at developing consumer electronic products under their own brand and distributing them through a number of middle to low-cost distribution chains such as grocery stores. Medion is a well-established player in this market area, yet there is a lot of competition as well.

While working with manufactures in China, I saw a niche that was going unmet. There are plenty of low cost products in the market on one end of the spectrum and a number of well known, high-end manufacturers of top quality stereo systems and components on the other end. Yet that middle market – high quality compact audio solutions, while being addressed by some key players, still had a lot of room for growth. I saw a chance to develop a line of tabletop audio products that are of exceptional quality, and equally important, unique design.

How has the German market impacted your designs? Additionally, how has opening the line up to the rest of Europe, the US and the world impacted your designs?

I’d like to think our designs are universal. They’re modern and streamline. Our cubo line is colorful and fun, while our elements family is high tech and sleek. The beauty of all our products is that they look great in any interior: from a classic setting to a minimalist environment. The German aspect of sonoro products comes through in Read the rest of this entry »

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Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Q&A with Petunia Pickle Bottom

Ali

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Petunia Pickle Bottom Founders with KidsThis month Fit Pregnancy listed the Petunia Pickle Bottom Scout diaper bag in their “2009 Buyers Guide.” Yeehaw PPB! What better timing than now to get to know the creators of the heavily sought after bags. Meet the dynamic trio who started it all: DeNai (founder), her husband Braden, and close friend Korie. Their PPB bags are all over the place and coveted by celebrities, moms, dads and Ali.

This q&a has a lot to it so put the little tyke down for a nap, grab a drink of choice and enjoy the interview.

Right off the bat we have to explore the Petunia Pickle Bottom name. Where did it come from?

Denai with Dad and HarmonicaWe can thank my dad for coming up with the silly, sentimental name. He’s a Biologist, but I half joke that he should have been a jingle-writer. When I was little he played the harmonica and made up little sing songs, one of which the phrase Petunia Pickle Bottom was born. There’s always a reaction of “Petunia huh?” but that’s why it works. People remember it. The best of course is when we get junk mail at the office addressed to Mrs. Petunia P. Bottom.

Speaking of names, the product names for many of your PPB bags certainly point to travel and the world. You don’t see many products with names like “Sightseeing in Sumatra” or “Moon Over Macau” lining store shelves. Tell me a bit more about the inspirations for these bags.

The bag naming is inspired by personal travel, favorite spots, or something I like to call “faux traveling.” Faux traveling is hopping on Google to check out far off places, research hidden gems to discover the perfect name that strikes the mood of a certain fabric I’ve created. There are 3 of us who do the naming in the office and you would be surprised just how much time and energy we dedicate to it—it’s often a scene of great debate.

Petunia Pickle Bottom Touring ToteOverall I’d say my silhouettes are inspired from various aspects of life. I spend a lot of time researching archival photos—I especially love it when I happen upon an antique store with a big bowl full of black and white photos. This picture into the past is a real treat and I find it very inspiring. Travel is also a common place I find inspiration—some of our best designs are fashioned from seeing the world with fresh eyes. The bag design could also be as literal as a vintage piece of luggage we’ve found or the function of the bag itself can help form the shape of the piece. The Cosmopolitan Carryall is definitely reminiscent of a vintage doctor’s bag. When the first sketch was complete it sort of reminded me of Doc’s bag on “Little House on the Prairie” (am I dating myself here)? It’s obviously made its own metamorphosis since those early stages but I think it lives up to what I call the vintage modern approach. A lot of our bags have also been designed to suit a specific part of “life with baby” in a fashionable way. Sometimes we will work backwards with a laundry list of “what” we would like the bag to achieve then move to the type of silhouette that might marry with that function.

I am always curious about work spaces. What is your office like?

Petunia Pickle Bottom OfficeAs for our office and work culture, we’re pretty lucky. We have such a great team of people and feel like one big family. We occupy a space of a reclaimed 1900′s brick building that is Read the rest of this entry »

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